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mit sin. They will as probably, or as certainly, commit sin in executing the commands of their parents, attending public or family worship, going to school, or performing an errand, as other sinners do in praying, or performing any other act, not in itself sinful.
How, then, can these parents, particularly such of them as are skilled in this controversy, advise their sinful children to pursue these kinds of conduct? Nay, more; how can they exhort, and command them; reward them for obeying; and punish them for disobeying? The bare advice, or exhortation, given to other sinners, and prompting them to pray, and strive, that they may be saved, is, in the view of these parents, unlawful; and they refuse to give it. But to their own sinful children they not only give advice, of the same unlawful nature; but add to their exhortations and commands their rewards and punishments.
Suppose the child of such a parent should refuse to obey such a command, or any other, because he was, and because his parent knew he was, a sinner, and could not, therefore, lawfully do the thing commanded, nor his parent lawfully command him to do it: what could the parent answer, consistently I mean, with his own principles ? Plainly, he could not reprove the child for his refusal ; nor afterwards advise, exhort, nor command, him to do any thing, until after the child should have hopefully become a Christian.
But, in this case, what would become of children; and, ultimately, of the world ? If children were not advised, what useful thing could they know? If they were not exhorted and commanded, what useful thing would they do; what useful habit would they establish, or even imbibe ? 'Without such habits, what valuable end of their being could they answer? They would evidently become mere beasts of prey;
and make the world a den of violence and slaughter.
In the same manner, and on the same principles, no person, entrusted with the government, or instruction of mankind, can advise, exhort, or command them, while sinners, to do any thing, except to repent and believe. Civil Rulers, and Instructors, are daily called upon by their offices to advise, or otherwise direct, such as are plainly sinners. Every law and regulation of a State, or Seminary of Science, is possessed of this nature; and is a greater transgression on the part of the Lawgiver, or Ruler, than advice can be ; because it contains a stronger expression of his will, and a more powerful inducement to the conduct, which is prescribed. When parents, therefore, or others, advise ; they are, according to the Objection, guilty. When they exhort, or command, they are more guilty. When they reward, or punish, they are most guilty.
As Civil Rulers and Instructors are obliged, equally with Ministers, to do what is right, and avoid what is wrong; they can no more
be justified than Ministers, in advising, exhorting, or commanding, sinners to do any thing, which is unlawful. Hence, unless their subjects, or pupils, should first repent and believe, they cannot require them to do any thing antecedently to their Repentance. The world, of course, must.be uninstructed, and ungoverned, until the Millennium: and, what is still more to be lamented, the Millennium itself, according to the usual course of God's Providence, will never arrive.
Among the regulations, which exist in all Literary Institutions, one, ever esteemed of high importance, is the establishinent of Public Prayers. At these, students, universally, have hitherto been required to be present. But on the scheme which I oppose, this requisition is altogether unlawful. In every such Institution, there is conclusive reason to believe, that the great body of the members are impenitent. None of these, therefore, can, according to this scheme, be lawfully required to attend this worship, nor the public worship of the Sabbath. But what would become of a literary Institution, if this attendance were not required ? What would these very parents say, if it were to be dispensed with in the case of their own children?
A Christian is the Master of a Family; but, as is sometimes the fact, is obviously the only Christian in the family. According to this scheme, it is plain, he cannot set up family worship; because he can neither require, nor advise, the members of his household to be present at this religious service.
Ministers, usually at least, preach more or less to sinners; and customarily endeavour to suit iheir sermons to the circumstances of impenitent men. But they can never lawfully advise sinners to be present, that they may hear them preach. Nor can a Parent be justified in directing his children to be present; or to stand up to worship; or to listen, that he may learn, and perform his duty: for, in all these things they are still sinners, and will commit sin. Nor can a Minister advise his sinful parishioners to support him; or to build, or repair, a Church; or to do the external acts of charity, justice, or truth; or to arm in defence of his country; or to obey its laws, and magistrates. In all these things, when done antecedently to regeneration, they are as really sinful, as in praying, and in striving, for salvation.
The very persons, who rely most upon this Ohjection, rejoice universally, when mankind are, in any place, awakened to solemn consideration concerning their guilt and danger. But every awak. ened sinner prays : and no person can by any ordinary means prevent him from praying. Why do these men rejoice? Certainly not in the sin, which the persons awakened are supposed to commit.
Certainly not in the abominable character, which these prayers have in the sight of God. In what, then, do they rejoice? Undoubtedly, in the prospect of the sinner's sanctification, and Vol. IV.
return to God. Of course, there is such a prospect. In this angels would also rejoice.
3. It is objected, that advising Sinners to pray will encourage them to sloth, and quiet them in sin.
That this consequence may follow, I shall not deny. But it will follow, only from an abuse of the doctrine, which is here taught. A bad man may pervert a good doctrine to bad purposes: but this is no objection against the doctrine itself. These very consequences have, I verily believe, flowed from the doctrine of my objectors in ten instances, where in one they have flowed from that which I am supporting.
It is the duty of all men immediately to repent of their sins, and turn to God, with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. These things I would always preach; and wish my hearers always to believe, and feel. For this end I would exhort them to be present, that they might hear, and feel, them. For the same end I would exhort parents, to teach them to their children in the morning of life, that they may know and feel them from the beginning. Nor am I less desirous, that they should read the Scriptures, that they may find, and feel, the same things in them, as uttered by the mouth of God; that my own errors may in their minds be corrected, and the truths, which I preach, enforced by that holy book. For the same reasons I wish them to mark the lives, and enjoy the conversation, of Christians; that they may be enlightened by their views, and deeply affected by the excellency of Religion, manifested in their conduct. The religious writings of others I recommend, for the same important purposes. I preach, and write, with the hope of doing some real good to mankind. That others, with the same design, possess more ability to accomplish this interesting purpose, I cannot entertain a doubt. The same reasons, therefore, which make me wish, that the Congregation, allotted to me, may be present, to hear my discourses, must, with enhanced force, render me desirous, that they should also read the writings of others.
Finally ; Whatever is thus taught, enforced, and gained, I urge them to make by solemn meditation a part of their own habitual course of thought; compare with their own moral condition; and bring home to their hearts, by asking God to sanctify them, and to bless the Means of knowledge and amendment, which He has been pleased to put into their hands.
In all this I see no natural cause of sloth, or quiet in sin. On the contrary, there is here, if I mistake not, more done to awaken, engage, and encourage men to seek salvation, than on the scheme of the Objector. When I remember, that Divines of the first reputation, and the greatest success, have thus preached; and that in the use of these very Means, the great body of mankind, who appear to have been, or to be now, Christians, have become Christians; I feel assured, that this is the proper manner of persuading others to assume the same character, and placing them in the way to a blessing from God.
THE ORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.-HEARING THE WORD OF GOD.
LOKE vii. 18.- Take heed, therefore, how ye hear.
In the last discourse, but one, I distributed the principal Means of Grace under the following Heads :
1. The Preaching of the Gospel ;
; Vl. The Religious Education of Children.
In that discourse, also, I endeavoured to exhibit the Influence of these Means in the Work of Salvation.
The next object, which I propose, is a Separate Consideration of these several subjects ; that their respective efficacy may be more particularly displayed. It will be remembered, that they are all, here, to be considered as Means, in the application of which, holiness is originally communicated, as well as Means of improving in holiness.
The direction in the Text is, I apprehend, a direction given to all men, who are in possession of the Gospel. It is delivered in the most general terms; and may, therefore, be regarded as extending to every mode of hearing, which is useful. There are modes of hearing, which, unless I am deceived, are eventually useful to sinners; and in which the Gospel becomes to sinners the power of God unto salvation. I shall consider these modes, as included in it; modes in which I should wish a sinful child of my own, and for the same reason should wish others also, to hear the Gospel. Such, as have heard in these modes, have in great multitudes, as I verily believe, been profited, in a degree which no man can estimate.
The persons, who in this sense would take heed how they hear the Gospel ; by which I intend the Scriptures at large ; ought, while they hear, to remember the following things.
1. That the Gospel is the Word of God.
To prevent any misapprehension, I wish it to be kept steadily in view, that no attention, or reverence, is here claimed to Preaching, any farther than the Gospel is preached. To the mere opinions, and declarations, of a Preacher, as such, no other respect is due, than that, which by common consent is rendered to the opinions and declarations of all men, of similar understanding and worth. The best opinions of men are merely useful, wholesome ad
. vice. The Scriptures are a Law; possessed of Divine authority, and obligation. So far as the doctrines, precepts, and ordinances, of the Scriptures are preached, they claim the reverence, which they themselves have challenged.
The solemn remembrance, that the Scriptures are the Word of God, involves a variety of interesting considerations.
In this character, particularly, they come home to us as the Word of Him, by whom we were created, and by whom we are preserved, and governed. From this Great and Glorious Being, all that we have, and all that we hope for, is, and must be, derived.
We are his property; and are rightfully disposed of, and rightfully required to dispose of ourselves, according to his pleasure. In the Scriptures alone is this pleasure made known to us. In them alone, therefore, we learn the proper destination of our faculties, our services, and ourselves. The Law, by which we are here required to do his pleasure, is invested with all possible authority, and obligation; and demands our reverence, and obedience, in a manner supremely impressive.
As the Word of God, also, the Scriptures are dictated by his Wisdom, Goodness, and Truth. They are the Word of Him, who cannot mistake, deceive, nor injure. Consequently they contain all things, necessary for life and godliness; whatever we need to know, and whatever we ought to do, for the attainment of his approbation. On their entire wisdom and integrity, their fitness to promote the great purpose for which they were written, and their conduciveness to it in ourselves, we are wholly to rely. Not a doubt
a can be reasonably entertained concerning the truth of the doctrines, the soundness of the precepts, or the sincerity of the promises. Nor are we any more to distrust the certainty of the threatenings, or the reality of those awful dangers, which they disclose. We are bound on the one hand not to question the truth, and on the other, not to dispute the wisdom and goodness, of that, which is revealed. All things, which this sacred Book contains, are to be received as they are. Our own opinions are implicitly to bow before them: and we are ever to be ready to believe, that what we think the foolishness of God is wiser than men ; than all the substituted opinions of ourselves or others. Let God be true, ought to be our invariable language, but every man who opposes his declarations, a liar. Against this great and awful Being we have rebelled. Hence,
, although he is our Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor, he still regards our moral character with abhorrence. The Scriptures, therefore, are published to us as the Word of an offended God. Hence are derived all those denunciations of anger and punishment, found in them; which could have no place in the Will of God, as revealed to obedient creatures.